Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar Tuesday said the federal government, in consultations with all the provinces, has made comprehensive arrangements to ensure sufficient production and supply of all essential items by keeping the relevant industries open and operational. The minister addressed a press conference here, flanked by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Asad Umar and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Services Zafar Mirza. He said since the country is in lockdown so there is a dire need to ensure production and supply of daily use essential items across the country to facilitate people. “We have been engaged in meetings for the last four days with chief secretaries and officials of all four provinces, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and Islamabad through video conference and we have made certain decisions with mutual consultations,” he said, adding that the list of necessary manufacturers, industry, retailers and services has been prepared in consultations with the provinces. However, the provincial governments have the right to increase or decrease the list according to their requirements, he added. He said all the provinces and federation are on the same page in determining the essential industries needed to be kept in operation in this lockdown situation, adding the industries that are providing raw materials and inputs to these industries will also be kept open. In addition, he said, the government will ensure transportation of labour forces to these industries. He said the list of the selected industry will be made public Wednesday (today) after the meeting of the National Coordination Committee. He, however, stressed the need for level-playing among these industries in all the four provinces to ensure smooth functioning of supply chain. The minister said some problems are faced in Sindh province in transporting labourers to the industry, however the provincial government is now working on to overcome these shortcomings. He said the exporters are facing some issues at ports, which will also be sorted out. The minister said there is no shortage of food commodities in the country, adding the economic relief package announced by the government will help ensure maintaining buying power of the low income people. He advised the people not to engage in panic-buying as there is no shortage of essential items. Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said it is important for the government to strike a balance between preventing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping the economy running. “In a country like Pakistan, if we say we won’t have a lockdown at all, the disease will spread very fast and people will start losing jobs because they will be too sick […] there is no country in the world that would say it is not going to enforce a lockdown,” he reasoned. “But if you enforce too strict a lockdown, people won’t get food and then there is no way they will not come out on the streets and our efforts to control the spread will fail,” he added. Umar urged the nation to not treat coronavirus patients like ‘criminals’, adding that it will lead to people not reporting symptoms out of fear. He asked the authorities to ensure that it does not happen. SAPM Zafar Mirza said the government will acquire a synthesiser in a few weeks which will enable the country to start producing testing kits on its own. Referring to the striking of balance between preventing the spread of the coronavirus and ensuring the continued production of essential items, Mirza said the government will issue two sets of guidelines – for the people who would work in those industries and the people who would go out to buy essential items on its website on Wednesday. He said there had been a big increase in the number of suspected patients in the last 24 hours and urged the people to follow the preventive measures announced by the government to stop the spread of the disease.